What to Do If Arrested

Foreign police and intelligence agencies can detain persons for many reasons, or for no reason other than suspicion or curiosity. In some countries where security organs have sweeping powers to detain persons believed to be a threat to national security, virtually any government document or official statistic falls under the definition of "state secret." American standards of what is "open information" do not apply in many foreign countries.

If arrested, follow these guidelines.

  • Ask to contact the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. As a citizen of another country, you have this right; but that does not mean that your hosts will allow you to exercise that right. If you are refused or just ignored, continue to make the request periodically until they accede and let you contact the embassy or consulate.
  • Stay calm, maintain your dignity and do not do anything to provoke the arresting officer(s).
  • Do not admit anything or volunteer any information.
  • Do not sign anything. Often, part of the detention procedure is to ask or tell the detainee to sign a written report. Decline politely until such time as the document is examined by an attorney or an embassy/consulate representative.
  • Do not accept anyone on face value. When the embassy or consulate representative arrives, request some identification before discussing your situation.
  • Do not fall for the ruse of helping the ones who are detaining you in return for your release. They can be very imaginative in their proposals on how you can be of assistance to them. Do not sell yourself out by agreeing to anything. If they will not take no for an answer, do not make a firm commitment or sign anything. Tell them that you will think it over and let them know. Once out of their hands, contact the American Embassy or Consulate for protection and assistance in getting out of the country.






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